Jun 26, 2023 Vas Nair

Mental Health Doesn’t Have To Be A Lonely Struggle

After a few years of silence, I heard from a business acquaintance, who I had worked with on several overseas assignments. It was wonderful to catch up and eventually hear about why she went quiet. It wasn’t a case of not wanting to stay in touch. She had something important going on with a team member, which changed how they worked together and led the way for stronger collaboration within her team.

I’ll refer to the two main people in this story as Lily and Kai.

In the bustling world of running her event planning business, Lily found herself faced with a challenge that many leaders encounter – helping a team member deal with mental health challenges. Her journey with Kai, one of her most valued team members, offers a heartwarming message of support, understanding, courage and personal growth.

It’s a story that they both want to share with others…

Kai had always been an exceptional employee, consistently delivering outstanding results. However, Lily began to notice changes in his behavior—a decline in performance, withdrawal from social interactions, and a general sense of unease. As her team was a small one, with eight event specialists, they all felt Kai’s absence. Concerned for his wellbeing, Lily wanted to help, but didn’t know how.

She finally spoke with him during a coffee break, using what I’ve always admired about her –  her empathy and kindness. Lily initiated a general conversation about how Kai was doing. She created a safe space for him to share his struggles, acknowledging the importance of keeping an eye on overall wellness, staying physically active, enjoying time with loved ones and appreciating his work. Through her attentive listening and non-judgmental attitude, Lily demonstrated that she genuinely cared about his welfare. Over several conversations, she learned how Kai was struggling to accept his mother’s declining health. Her dementia had significantly progressed. The inability to cope with the sadness was at the center of his anxiety. ‘I feel helpless and am not strong enough to be there for her during this terrible time.’ he said.

Lily explained to me that she always sought Kai’s permission before exploring any part of the conversation. She encouraged him to think about professional help, emphasizing that there is no shame in seeking support. She shared stories of successful individuals who had faced similar challenges, emphasizing that mental health is a universal concern affecting people from all walks of life.

Lily also took proactive steps to introduce flexible working hours, allowing Kai to spend more time with his mother. Because Kai took pride in his work, he made up for it by coaching others who had stepped in to help him with his projects. He took on more tactical tasks, so that others could grow into some of his work. This also allowed him to work remotely while he was caring for his mother.

Lily and the team soon noticed more positive energy from Kai. Although he often appeared tired, he was thankful for the camaraderie and support system at work.

So what are my takeaways from this?

First, it’s a story of courage, friendship and kindness. Lily didn’t simply walk away or blame Kai for slowing down at work. She had the courage to approach him in a patient, empathetic and professional manner. She created an atmosphere that allowed him to open up and trust her. I think it also took a lot of courage for Kai to open up, and he did it when he was ready to share his pain.

Second, dealing with mental health issues does not have to be a solitary battle. Recognizing the importance of social support and by taking measured steps, Lily and Kai were able to enjoy the benefits of the team coming together to help him. The team’s commitment to assist Kai navigate his challenges serves as a reminder that simple acts of compassion can make a profound difference in someone’s life. Their involvement gave each of them a new perspective on how they could all benefit, albeit in different ways.

Lily’s efforts not only impacted Kai but also the entire team. Her leadership and empathy created an environment where team members felt comfortable sharing their experiences and seeking ways to promote overall wellbeing. It’s an important reminder that together, we can create a world where empathy, understanding, and personal growth triumph over mental health challenges.

Giraffe HR App - Creators Vas Nair and Sobha Nair

Hi there!

We’re Vas and Sobha Nair, two sisters that have lived and breathed all aspects of human resources for over 50 years between us. Giraffe was born from our global experience coaching leaders and business owners navigate the same tricky workplace issues and discussions that you face. We know the best practices and proven processes that help turn workplace conflict on its head – and we want to share all of this and more with you in Giraffe.

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